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Mount Carmel budget fix reduces proposed tax hike, but loses parks and rec

Jeff Bobo • May 21, 2018 at 11:24 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Although the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has whittled down its proposed property tax increase from 68 cents to 29 cents, it comes with massive parks and recreation cuts that will impact three cities.

On Thursday evening, the BMA spent more than two hours working on ways to reduce what was reported last week as a $548,000 deficit in the proposed 2018-19 budget.

The BMA was told last week that in order to eliminate the need for a property tax increase it would have to lay off 10 employees and eliminate the library, post office, animal control and parks and rec departments.

Mayor Chris Jones then asked City Recorder Marian Sandidge and City Manager Mike Housewright to return to Thursday’s budget workshop with cuts that would reduce that proposed property tax hike.

What did they come up with Thursday night?

Sandidge told the Times News Friday that the 2018-19 budget proposal that will be considered for approval on first reading by the BMA on May 24 cuts every department to “bare bones with no wiggle room.”

It reduces the projected budget deficit to $180,000 which will require a 29 cent property tax hike to offset.

For a home valued at $100,000, that would mean an annual increase of $72.50 in property tax.

The Parks and Recreation Department takes the biggest hit, being cut from $130,000 to $29,750, which includes the $72,000 Mount Carmel contributes to the Joint Recreation Board it shares with Church Hill and Surgoinsville.

What’s the impact of cutting Parks and Rec funding?

Mount Carmel and Church Hill each pay 40 percent of that joint budget, while the smaller Surgoinsville pays 20 percent.

If Mount Carmel’s budget is approved without the contribution to the joint P&R budget, Church Hill and Surgoinsville would have to make up for Mount Carmel’s share.

However, the P&R contract signed by all three cities requires a one year notice to opt out of the partnership.

Church Hill Mayor Dennis Deal told the Times News Friday he will meet with his board to discuss Mount Carmel’s decision. Deal couldn’t say if the advance notice requirement would be waived or enforced.

If Mount Carmel opts out of the Joint Recreation Board, the city’s children would still be allowed to participate in the same sports leagues, but they would have to pay the county fee, which is generally $10 per sport.

Other proposed departmental cuts include:

Administration: From $641,190 to $545,000.

Police Department: From $683,000 to $614,000.

Fire Department: From $270,900 to $252,900.

Building Inspector: From $61,480 to $52,580.

Highways and Streets: From $406,850 to $387,000.

There were no cuts to the library or animal control.

The May 24 Mount Carmel BMA meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the upstairs senior center at City Hall. Last month the BMA gave its final approval to change the monthly meeting date from the fourth Tuesday of the month to the fourth Thursday of the month.

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